Not everyone finds soccer relatable, let alone Major League Soccer.
The last time I visited an old friend in Canarsie in Brooklyn, I committed the cardinal sin of switching off the New York Knicks, who were predictably losing at the time, for a contest between FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders. Oh, the death stares I received.
That was my fault, though.
Rather than force my passion onto a group of disinterested men, I should’ve started a conversation to make the experience a relatable one. The time to start that conversation is now.
Below are 20 hip-hop anthems, one for each MLS club. So the next time you find yourself defending the league on Ave. J and 105th, you’ll have the proper tools to walk out victorious.
Chicago Fire: “On Fire” – Lloyd Banks
This is an obvious one.
If you can get past Lloyd Banks screaming “New York City” in the intro, then you’ll appreciate the last decent song in his catalog.
Colorado Rapids: “Colors” – Ice T
No one has seen more changes in their club’s colors than the Colorado Rapids. Even Vincent Tan is green with envy.
Green was the primary kit color in 1996 before changing to black and blue for the 2003 season. Preparing to move into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2007, the Rapids rebranded themselves to the now familiar burgundy and blue.
Much like Ice T in 1988, Colorado is all about the colors.
Columbus Crew: “Grindin” – The Clipse
Technically, a rebrand deserves a new anthem…but you don’t throw away a classic like this one.
For most MLS purists, the Crew will forever be the team that symbolized work ethic. It’s what the previous logo stood for. So hit me with all the crests you want, Columbus, you can’t erase your history. You were the original grinders in MLS, and all you did was make The Clipse’s 2002 release one forever embedded in your DNA.
DC United: “Back From Hell” – Run DMC
What a difference a year makes.
In one season, DC United went from proverbial punchline to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They’re, as Run DMC put it in 1990, “Back from Hell.”
FC Dallas: “Burn” – Mobb Deep
This one serves as an ode to the Dallas Burn, the club that breathed life into the Dallas soccer scene in 1996, and the Inferno supporters group that stood with them since 1995.
Houston Dynamo: “Respect My Conglomerate” – Busta Rhymes
The Houston Dynamo still can’t get any respect, huh?
The poor club is being passed around conferences like a groupie at a video shoot. To make matters worse, their newly acquired designated player, Erick “El Cubo” Torres, is rotting on the bench at Chivas Guadalajara while Aldo De Nigris trolls him on a weekly basis.
Much like Busta Rhymes did in 2009, the Dynamo will have to keep demanding respect.
LA Galaxy: “Money, Power, Respect” – The Lox
I said it once, but I’ll say it again: If money, power and respect “are the keys to life,” then the Los Angeles Galaxy boast all three in spades. The club has the money to spend on a Steven Gerrard, Bruce Arena has the power to do whatever he wants—including drinking at a press conference—and if there’s anything a fifth MLS Cup demands, it’s respect.
The Galaxy and this 1998 release just go together like Rihanna and Royce Da 5’9” after a BET Awards cypher.
Montreal Impact: “Miracles” – Insane Clown Posse
Please forgive me, Montreal.
The Insane Clown Posse aren’t considered hip-hop. They’re not even considered “music” by anyone who can read above a fifth-grade level…but they’re 2010 release “Miracles” fits Montreal’s most memorable moment.
Down a goal and facing elimination in the CONCACAF Champions League, rookie Cameron Porter scored in the last minute of second-half stoppage time to secure a 1-1 draw and send the Impact to the semifinals on the away goals tiebreaker.
It was, indeed, a miracle.
New England Revolution: “Swagger Like Us” – T.I.
Name me one player in MLS that has more “swagger” than Jermaine Jones.
It’s not happening. When the World Cup veteran isn’t rubbing elbows with Paris Hilton and Charlie Sheen, he’s out there bolstering the most aesthetic club in the Eastern Conference. Couple that with Diego Fagundez’s hair and Lee Nguyen’s 2014 form, and no one in the league has swagger like the Revolution.
New York City FC: “N.Y. State of Mind” – Nas
I originally wrote a comment that included NYC FC’s home jersey, Frank Lampard and a more appropriate anthem; however, I like my job, so I’m wisely censoring myself. Below is all that’s left of my original words.
“This team does, however, claim to have a New York State of Mind.”
New York Red Bulls: “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” – Notorious B.I.G.
You would think winning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield was enough to shake the stigma of “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”
Despite mo’ success in 2014, finishing one goal away from an MLS Cup berth, the Red Bulls decided to part ways with head coach Mike Petke. Some things never change.
Orlando City: “Purple Swag” – A$AP Rocky
The color palette in MLS is complete. We get it, Orlando City, purple is your thing.
Philadelphia Union: “All About the Benjamins” – Puff Daddy
Give credit where credit is due: The Sons of Ben, a supporters’ group serving as an ode to Benjamin Franklin, are one of the most organic births in MLS’s brief history. In hip-hop, there’s only one ode to Mr. Franklin and it has more to do with his face on a hundred-dollar bill than anything else.
Puff Daddy & the Family, much like the Sons of Ben, were “All About the Benjamins” in this 1999 iconic hit.
Portland Timbers: “Public Enemy No. 1” – Puff Daddy
If Merritt Paulson was a hip-hop mogul, he’d be, as Suge Knight aptly put it at the 1995 Source Awards, “all in the videos, all on the record…dancing.” Seriously, just check Twitter.
In other words: He’d be Diddy.
He also happens to be “Public Enemy No. 1” in the eyes of commissioner Don Garber. Paulson was fined by the league for criticizing officials on social media in 2012.
Real Salt Lake: “American Royalty” – Childish Gambino
With a moniker like “Real,” RSL are claiming to be royalty—American royalty to be exact. Fortunately, the club has the aesthetic style on the pitch to back such a boastful name.
San Jose Earthquakes: “Till I Collapse” – Eminem
So…maybe the Goonies finally said “die” in 2014.
The Earthquakes finished last season dead last in the Western Conference, but that doesn’t merit an overreaction. This is still the club known for its momentous comebacks, making Eminem’s “Till I Collapse” a fitting anthem.
Seattle Sounders: “It’s Poppin” – Clint Dempsey
Macklemore was the worst thing to happen to hip-hop since Cam’ron went on 60 minutes and said he wouldn’t tell anybody if a serial killer lived next door to him.
Then, that Clint Dempsey rap happened.
He’s your striker, Seattle, so this is your anthem.
Sporting Kansas City: “We Dem Boyz” – Wiz Khalifa
The franchise was once called the Kansas City Wiz, so it’s only right that Wiz Khalifa is the artist responsible for Sporting Kansas City’s selection.
As for which song in his discography is most fitting, ask around the league. Everyone will tell you that Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Benny Feilhaber are indeed “Dem Boyz.”
Toronto FC: “Make It Rain” – Fat Joe
To quote Kevin Brown, TFC have “Liberace money.” Ever since Tim Leiweke joined the fray, the club has thrown money around like a rapper who just received his advance. It’s one thing to pay Sebastian Giovinco upwards of $7 million a season, but it’s another to drop $30 million on Jozy Altidore.
That’s just bragging. Enter Fat Joe’s annoyingly catchy 2006 collaboration with Lil’ Wayne.
Vancouver Whitecaps: “Y.N.R.E.” – A$AP Mob
Matias Laba, 23. Russell Teibert, 22. Kekuta Manneh, 20. Gershon Koffie, 23.
No club had more players in MLS’s 24 Under 24 than the Vancouver Whitecaps. Throw in Erik Hurtado, 24, and this young nucleus is, as A$AP Mob put it in 2012, “running everything.”